Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Ruins of Palenque

The city of Palenque has been occupied since at least 100 AD. It was a major center of power and culture in the Mayan realm until Tonina, the last chiefdom fell in 904 AD. At that time, the surrounding forest began its reclamation of the city. It was "discovered" by Fray Ramon de Ordonez in 1773. Fray Ordenez knew he had found something wonderful, as did the other explores who followed. However, lack of funds, lost reports, wars, and illness all played a part in keeping the secret of the forest for another half century.

In 1840, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, the most famous explorers of the Mayan world, rode on mules from Copan to Palenque. It was the arrival of Desire Charmay in 1859 which began the systematic exploration of the ruins. After a series of fits and starts, the exploration which continues today was initiated.

On the day after Christmas, we thought the weather would be cool and we would have the place to ourselves. Not so! The tourists were thick; the day was unbelievably bright and hot! However, all that said . . . I wouldn't have missed it for the world! It was all the better for having been postponed and planned for so long.